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Strategic Planning Steps

We hear a lot about strategic planning and its benefits. But there is often confusion about the steps involved in the
process of actually developing such as plan. So, what exactly is strategic planning? The components of the strategic
development process are relatively straightforward. Essentially, these are the strategic planning steps that will be
followed:
Strategic Planning Steps:
1. An internal analysis that encompasses assessing company strengths and weaknesses, financial
performance, people, operational limitations, corporate culture, current positioning in the market(s), the
overall characterization of the condition of the company and critical issues facing the organization.
2. An external analysis that focuses on analyzing competitors, assessing market opportunities and threats,
evaluating changing technology that could impact the organization, analyzing regulatory or legislative
concerns, changes and trends in the market(s) the company operates in and other potential outside
influences on the organization.
3. Summarizing the current situation or state of the organization based on the information gathered and
evaluated in steps one and two. This step is important to the process because it brings together relevant and
critical data and information and allows members of the planning team to more easily get a feel for what
opportunities and obstacles lie ahead.
4. Development of a mission, vision or purpose statement. It really does not matter what it is called, but this
step is important perhaps more because of the process that the team will go through to develop it than the
words that eventually end up on paper. In this step, the team is starting the process of focusing the
organization and its people on what the organization is all about and what is important to the organization.
5. Goal setting. Every organization needs goals. Again, focus is a critical element in the success of any
business. This step may be the most important of all of the strategic planning steps because it establishes
the framework and basis for the development of the other key elements of the plan.
6. Defining objectives that support the goals. Objectives are more specific in nature and are supportive of the
goal. They bring into even greater focus the goals of the organization.
7. Development of strategies. Strategies begin defining how the goals and objectives are going to be achieved.
8. While not all strategic plans include tactics, a good strategic plan will include at least the key tactics thought
to be important to supporting the strategies developed in step 7. Generally tactics are more fully developed
and added to the plan as time goes on. Tactics are the specific tasks associated with carrying out strategies.
Step One - Getting Ready
Step Two - Articulating Mission and Vision
Step Three - Assessing the Situation
Step Four - Developing Strategies, Goals, and Objectives
Step Five - Completing the Written Plan
STEP ONE - GETTING READY
To get ready for strategic planning, an organization must first assess if it is ready. While a number of issues must be
addressed in assessing readiness, the determination essentially comes down to whether an organization's leaders
are truly committed to the effort, and whether they are able to devote the necessary attention to the "big picture". For
example, if a funding crisis looms, the founder is about to depart, or the environment is turbulent, then it does not
make sense to take time out for strategic planning effort at that time.
An organization that determines it is indeed ready to begin strategic planning must perform five tasks to pave the way
for an organized process:
identify specific issues or choices that the planning process should address
clarify roles (who does what in the process)
create a Planning Committee
develop an organizational profile
identify the information that must be collected to help make sound decisions.
The product developed at the end of the Step One is a Workplan.
STEP TWO - ARTICULATING MISSION AND VISION
A mission statement is like an introductory paragraph: it lets the reader know where the writer is going, and it also
shows that the writer knows where he or she is going. Likewise, a mission statement must communicates the
essence of an organization to the reader. An organization's ability to articulate its mission indicates its focus and
purposefulness. A mission statement typically describes an organization in terms of its:
Purpose - why the organization exists, and what it seeks to accomplish
Business - the main method or activity through which the organization tries it fulfill this purpose
Values - the principles or beliefs that guide an organization's members as they pursue the
organization's purpose
Whereas the mission statement summarizes the what, how, and why of an organization's work, a vision statement
presents an image of what success will look like. For example, the mission statement of the Support Centers of
America is as follows:
The mission of the Support Centers of America is to increase the effectiveness of the nonprofit sector by providing
management consulting, training and research. Our guiding principles are: promote client independence, expand
cultural proficiency, collaborate with others, ensure our own competence, act as one organization.
We envision an ever increasing global movement to restore and revitalize the quality of life in local communities. The
Support Centers of America will be a recognized contributor and leader in that movement.
With mission and vision statements in hand, an organization has taken an important step towards creating a shared,
coherent idea of what it is strategically planning for.
At the end of Step Two, a draft mission statement and a draft vision statement is developed.
STEP THREE - ASSESSING THE SITUATION
Once an organization has committed to why it exists and what it does, it must take a clear-eyed look at its current
situation. Remember, that part of strategic planning, thinking, and management is an awareness of resources and an
eye to the future environment, so that an organization can successfully respond to changes in the environment.
Situation assessment, therefore, means obtaining current information about the organization's strengths,
weaknesses, and performance - information that will highlight the critical issues that the organization faces and that
its strategic plan must address. These could include a variety of primary concerns, such as funding issues, new
program opportunities, changing regulations or changing needs in the client population, and so on. The point is to
choose the most important issues to address. The Planning Committee should agree on no more than five to ten
critical issues around which to organize the strategic plan.
The products of Step Three include: a data base of quality information that can be used to make decisions; and a list
of critical issues which demand a response from the organization - the most important issues the organization needs
to deal with.
STEP FOUR - DEVELOPING STRATEGIES, GOALS, AND OBJECTIVES
Once an organization's mission has been affirmed and its critical issues identified, it is time to figure out what to do
about them: the broad approaches to be taken (strategies), and the general and specific results to be sought (the
goals and objectives). Strategies, goals, and objectives may come from individual inspiration, group discussion,
formal decision-making techniques, and so on - but the bottom line is that, in the end, the leadership agrees on how
to address the critical issues.
This can take considerable time and flexibility: discussions at this stage frequently will require additional information
or a reevaluation of conclusions reached during the situation assessment. It is even possible that new insights will
emerge which change the thrust of the mission statement. It is important that planners are not afraid to go back to an
earlier step in the process and take advantage of available information to create the best possible plan.
The product of Step Four is an outline of the organization's strategic directions - the general strategies, long-range
goals, and specific objectives of its response to critical issues.
STEP FIVE - COMPLETING THE WRITTEN PLAN
The mission has been articulated, the critical issues identified, and the goals and strategies agreed upon. This step
essentially involves putting all that down on paper. Usually one member of the Planning Committee, the executive
director, or even a planning consultant will draft a final planning document and submit it for review to all key decision
makers (usually the board and senior staff). This is also the time to consult with senior staff to determine whether the
document can be translated into operating plans (the subsequent detailed action plans for accomplishing the goals
proposed by the strategic plan) and to ensure that the plan answers key questions about priorities and directions in
sufficient detail to serve as a guide. Revisions should not be dragged out for months, but action should be taken to
answer any important questions that are raised at this step. It would certainly be a mistake to bury conflict at this step
just to wrap up the process more quickly, because the conflict, if serious, will inevitably undermine the potency of the
strategic directions chosen by the planning committee.
SWOT analysis (alternatively SWOT Matrix) is a structured planning method used to evaluate
the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats involved in a project or in abusiness venture. A
SWOT analysis can be carried out for a product, place, industry or person. It involves specifying the
objective of the business venture or project and identifying the internal and external factors that are
favorable and unfavorable to achieving that objective. The technique is credited to Albert Humphrey, who
led a convention at the Stanford Research Institute (now SRI International) in the 1960s and 1970s using
data from Fortune 500 companies.
[1][2]
The degree to which the internal environment of the firm matches
with the external environment is expressed by the concept of strategic fit.
Setting the objective should be done after the SWOT analysis has been performed. This would allow
achievable goals or objectives to be set for the organization.
Strengths: characteristics of the business or project that give it an advantage over others
Weaknesses: are characteristics that place the team at a disadvantage relative to others
Opportunities: elements that the project could exploit to its advantage
Threats: elements in the environment that could cause trouble for the business or project
Identification of SWOTs is important because they can inform later steps in planning to achieve the
objective.
First, the decision makers should consider whether the objective is attainable, given the SWOTs. If
the objective is not attainable a different objective must be selected and the process repeated.
Users of SWOT analysis need to ask and answer questions that generate meaningful information for
each category (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) to make the analysis useful and
find their competitive advantage.
A mission statement is a statement of the purpose of a company, organization or person, its reason for
existing.
The mission statement should guide the actions of the organization, spell out its overall goal, provide a
path, and guide decision-making. It provides "the framework or context within which the company's
strategies are formulated." It's like a goal for what the company wants to do for the world.
Mission statements often include the following information:
Aim(s) of the organization
The organization's primary stakeholders: clients/customers, shareholders, congregation, etc.
How the organization provides value to these stakeholders, for example by offering specific types of
products and/or services
A declaration of an organization's sole core purpose. A mission statement answers the question,
"Why do we exist?"
According to Bart,
[2]
the commercial mission statement consists of 3 essential components:
1. Key market who is your target client/customer? (generalize if needed)
2. Contribution what product or service do you provide to that client?
3. Distinction what makes your product or service unique, so that the client would choose you?
Examples of mission statements that clearly include the 3 essential components:
For example:
McDonald's - "To provide the fast food customer food prepared in the same high-quality manner
world-wide that has consistent taste, serving time, and price in a low-key dcor and friendly
atmosphere."
[citation needed]

Key Market: The fast food customer world-wide
Contribution: tasty and reasonably-priced food prepared in a high-quality manner
Distinction: delivered consistently (world-wide) in a low-key dcor and friendly atmosphere.
Courtyard by Marriott - "To provide economy and quality minded travelers with a premier, moderate
priced lodging facility which is consistently perceived as clean, comfortable, well-maintained, and
attractive, staffed by friendly, attentive and efficient people"
[citation needed]

Key Market: economy and quality minded travelers
Contribution: moderate priced lodging
Distinction: consistently perceived as clean, comfortable, well-maintained, and attractive, staffed
by friendly, attentive and efficient people
The mission statement can be used to resolve trade-offs between different business stakeholders.
Stakeholders include: managers & executives, non-management employees, shareholders, board of
directors, customers, suppliers, distributors, creditors/bankers, governments (local, state, federal, etc.),
labour unions, competitors, NGOs, and the community or general public. By definition, stakeholders affect
or are affected by the organization's decisions and activities.
According to Vern McGinis
[citation needed]
, a mission should:
Define what the company is
Limited to exclude some ventures
Broad enough to allow for creative growth
Distinguish the company from all others
Serve as framework to evaluate current activities
Stated clearly so that it is understood by all

A vision statement is a declaration of a company's goals for the mid-term or long-term
future. Ranging from one line to several paragraphs, a vision statement identifies what the
company would like to achieve or accomplish. A good vision statement provides the
inspiration for the daily operations of a business and molds its strategic decisions.